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Fundamentals of Genre

How literary Style affects the interpretation of Scripture

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God chose to give the Bible to us in a diverse collection of literary forms called genres. Each literary category has rules that guide us in its interpretation. In this article we will look at the guiding principles for interpreting and applying five genres in Scripture—Psalms, Proverbs, Narratives, Parables of Jesus, and Epistles—as well as common errors made with each genre.


Psalms are at one and the same time both prayers and hymns. They are one example of the poetic genre. They speak to the mind and the heart, expressing a broad range of emotions: fear, anger, comfort, encouragement. Psalms are almost always directed to God, though other forms of biblical poetry may not be.

One crucial facet of Hebrew poetry is the use of parallelism. Ideas are "rhymed" rather than words. For example, Psalm 19:1 says:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. ...

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